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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots: Bold Predictions

What shakes out this week on Sunday Night Football?

In terms of bold storylines and bold matchups, it doesn't get much bigger than this week's matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Both teams are looking to rebound from bad losses. I'm looking to rebound from the last two weeks in which I've hit on one just 1/10 bolds. 

Someone is going home still searching for answers. Let's dive into this week's bold predictions.

Bold predictions record through Week 3: 5-10

5. Tom Brady throws his record-breaking pass to a running back

Brady needs just 68 passing yards to pass Drew Brees for the all-time record. Unless something catastrophic happens, Brees' record will be broken on Sunday night.

The one thing that is unknown, however, is who catches the record-breaking pass. There are certainly plenty of options like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, etc., but it won't go to them. It will go to one of the Bucs running backs.

Maybe this isn't so bold when considering Brady's history with running backs, but at the same time, it is pretty bold when you assess who catches passes out of the backfield in Tampa Bay. Plus, Giovani Bernard, the team's most reliable pass-catching back, is out for this game.

4. Leonard Fournette runs for 100+ yards and 1+ touchdown

Picking any Buccaneers running back to have success should be a considered a bold pick these days. And while New England's run defense isn't the best - does it really matter if the Bucs running backs average a combined 13 carries a game?

If and when the Bucs do decide to run the ball, Fournette should see the majority of snaps/carries. Ronald Jones II's usage is nearly zero, Bernard is hurt, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn was inactive for the first two weeks of the regular season. All of this creates a perfect storm for Fournette to see a good amount of work. 

And even if Fournette doesn't receive a lot of carries, the Patriots have given up four carries of 15-yards or more on the year, which is tied for ninth-most. So, there's a good chance for a few chunk plays. The Bucs need to get their running game going and they'll do just so with Fournette.

3. Tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry combine for 125+ receiving yards and 1+ touchdown

The Bucs are having some issues with defending tight ends, which has been a pretty common theme since Todd Bowles arrived in 2019. So far, the Bucs are allowing the 10th-highest EPA/play and the second-highest positive play rate to tight ends. In terms of raw stats, the Bucs have given up the second-most receptions (21), 11th-most yards (193), and 10th-most touchdowns (1) to the position. 

Smith and Henry are the Patriots two best receiving targets, even if both players have gotten off to a slow start so far this year. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs defend both players and both should have plenty of opportunities to make plays.

Jonnu Smith will be a factor in this week's game.

Jonnu Smith will be a factor in this week's game.

2. The Patriots lose three straight regular season home games for the first time since 1995

You know all about the Patriots' success if you've followed football even slightly over the last 20 years. Six Super Bowl wins, nine AFC Championship titles, and 17 division titles are what headline the Patriots' overall body of work since 2001. 

The Patriots also haven't lost three games in a row since 2000 and they haven't lost three games in a row at home since October 29 - December 3 of the 1995 season.

Well, that will change this weekend. The Bucs will win the game, thus closing the door on yet another impressive Patriots streak.

1. Carlton Davis III records at least 1.5 sacks

Per Pro Football Focus, Davis has been sent after the quarterback seven times this year, which is the fifth-highest amount among all cornerbacks. His 4.3% pass rush rate is the sixth-highest rate among all cornerbacks with at least 110 pass coverage snaps, so he gets sent after the quarterback often in terms of corners that are on the field for a good amount of time.

The Patriots have some decent talent at receiver, but there's no one that really requires extra attention. The team's most productive receiver, Nelson Agholor, is also more of a speed guy out of the slot, which is not the type of matchup that favors Davis. Don't get me wrong: The Bucs need Davis in coverage, but they will not need him to be the No. 1 corner on every snap. Therefore, Bowles will blitz him a few times this week.

As a result, Davis gets home not once, but at least 1.5 times, which would also represent the first sack-and-a-half of his career.

Main photo credit: John A. Babiak/@Photog_JohnB

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